What joy is left in sports? Is it just for those who win the gold, or is there any room left for the "failure" or the dreamer or for those who just simply aren’t the very best? After all, at the Olympics most of the athletes are among the best in the world in their events.
With so much pressure placed on athletes, I was curious to see how the competitors and coaches dealt with stress, disqualification, and even failure. In the end, was winning the only thing that made them happy?
One of my first interviews was with a tennis coach whose athlete had lost earlier in the day. I hoped he had something positive to say about her despite that. I mean she must be talented- she’s an Olympian, right?
Everything from the frustration in his voice to the negativity of his comments showed me that, because of his player’s failure, he had nothing positive to say.
But my other interactions with athletes showed me that their joy came from more than just a first place finish. Many compete because they have a passion for sport and country and personal conviction.
200 meter runner Cristian Reyes was honored to be at the Olympics because he represented his home country, Chile. His perspective on sports was that, “being in sports is more than just a job; it is an experience that is good for life.”
Canadian diver Francois Imbeau-Dulac told me how he deals with the pressure to win, “I just try to be myself and enjoy every moment and every dive.”
Australian equestrian Megan Jones won silver in Beijing but was disqualified this year because her horse had a cyst on its foot. When I asked her what kept her going even after setbacks such as that, she replied, “It’s a lifetime passion because you have to bond with a creature and form a partnership.”
Despite your own setbacks, what brings you joy? What does it mean to fail anyway? Is trying your best, but not finishing first better than not trying at all?